Celebrating 55 years of Solidarity through Development and Peace: Fun Food Funds and the Box Lunch Auction

Students at Holy Cross High School enthusiastically supported Development and Peace through an annual Boxed Lunch Auction. (Submitted photo courtesy of Louise Bitz)

By Louise Bitz

When Development and Peace was first initiated in 1967 in schools and churches across Canada the staff at Holy Cross High School were quick to embrace both the education and fund-raising component of D&P as integral to the faith development of young people.

All kinds of creative ideas emerged to raise funds for D&P’s partners in the Global South, and the students always had a great spirit of fun doing it. I remember the elaborate cake auctions and the penny races in particular.

Immersed in the spiritual as it was, Lent was also a fun time where students saw themselves as part of a bigger global community in the church.

When I returned as chaplain to the school in 2000, it seemed like an opportune time to initiate a new Lenten fund-raiser. Thus began a 19-year ride with the Box Lunch Auction.

The idea originated decades ago at E.D. Feehan High School. To successfully do a Box Lunch Auction takes a lot of commitment, cooperation, organization, energy, momentum, creativity, and generosity from staff and students. This took hold through the years, and gained its own significant traction and spirit, such that “the thing” for the graduating class of each year was to ensure that the total raised for the auction was higher than the year before. For over ten years, the total raised each year was between $22,000 and $43,000. We topped out at $43,357 one year.

But it wasn’t just about the money. The Box Lunch Auction created a deep feeling of community and unity in the school – for that one day, we were all on one page and celebrated together. The joy and excitement in the air was palpable.

The lunches were creatively conceived and named:  Cheeses of Nazareth, Life of Pie, Charlie and the Chocolate Fondue, Banana Rama Bananza, Around the World in 60 Minutes, The Breakfast Club, Alice in Wonderland Tea Party, Disney Princess Party, to name a few.

There were Hoedowns, Patio Parties, Hawaiian Luau’s, Dance Parties, Bouncy Castles, Dad Barbecues and a host of other fun gatherings.

A few highlights that will forever remain in my memory:  in 2002, only the second year of the auction, I saw a group of four Grade 12 boys bid $100 for a $20 Macdonald’s lunch; then I knew they understood what this was about.

(Submitted photo courtesy of Louise Bitz)

In 2006, the Grade 12’s successfully bid and won their lunch for $7,000, but had raised $11,330, so a group of them stood up exuberantly with a sign that gave their $11,330 bid, even though it was $4,000 over what they already won. I remember the gasps in the crowd.

That was a significant moment. From then on the auction really became a rallying cry for the students and staff to step up in a big way for Development and Peace.

All grades engaged with excitement and collegial spirit to make this day one of the best days in the school year. It was really about engaging in some creative fun to help bring life to God’s dream for greater justice and peace in the world.

I remember a conversation I had the day after the auction with a young man in Grade 12 who worked part-time at the Coop gas station. On the morning of the auction, I had seen him running into the school and asked him what the rush was.  He said he had just emptied his bank account and had to get the money to the table where the Grade 12s were pooling their bid.   The day after, as he was filling up my car at the Co-op, I asked him out of genuine curiosity, “Today, how do you feel about emptying your bank account yesterday?”  And I will never forget the look on his face.  With a wide grin he said “I feel GREAT!”

And that, my friends, is how the grace of God works in the hearts of our beautiful young people and testifies to the spirit of generosity with Development and Peace that took hold at Holy Cross for many decades.

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A historical note:

“In 1967, the Canadian bishops launched the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace as a creative new way to assist the poor and oppressed peoples of the world in  their struggle for justice…To realize this vision, the new organization devoted many of its resources to building an integrated social movement that educated Canadians about global injustice and mobilized them for action…The origins of Development and Peace were at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).  Working closely with their colleagues from Latin America, Africa and Asia, the Canadian bishops became increasingly aware of the massive poverty and systemic injustices that confronted the developing world…”  –  Page 13 of the book Jubilee, 50 Years of Solidarity by Peter Baltutis.